Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


ALMA and MUSE detect galactic fountain


Observations by ALMA and data from the MUSE spectrograph on ESO's VLT have revealed a colossal fountain of molecular gas powered by a black hole in the brightest galaxy of the Abell 2597 cluster -- the full galactic cycle of inflow and outflow powering this vast cosmic fountain has never before been observed in one system.

A mere one billion light-years away in the nearby galaxy cluster known as Abell 2597, there lies a gargantuan galactic fountain. A massive black hole at the heart of a distant galaxy has been observed pumping a vast spout of cold molecular gas into space, which then rains back onto the black hole as an intergalactic deluge.

Composite image of the Abell 2597 galaxy cluster showing the fountain-like flow of gas powered by the supermassive black hole in the central galaxy. The yellow is ALMA data showing cold gas. The red is data from the MUSE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope showing the hot hydrogen gas in the same region. The blue-purple is the extended hot, ionized gas as imaged by the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Tremblay et al.; NRAO/AUI/NSF, B. Saxton; NASA/Chandra; ESO/VLT

The in- and outflow of such a vast cosmic fountain has never before been observed in combination, and has its origin in the innermost 100 000 light-years of the brightest galaxy in the Abell 2597 cluster.

"This is possibly the first system in which we find clear evidence for both cold molecular gas inflow toward the black hole and outflow or uplift from the jets that the black hole launches," explained Grant Tremblay of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and former ESO Fellow, who led this study. "The supermassive black hole at the centre of this giant galaxy acts like a mechanical pump in a fountain."

Tremblay and his team used ALMA to track the position and motion of molecules of carbon monoxide within the nebula. These cold molecules, with temperatures as low as minus 250-260°C, were found to be falling inwards to the black hole. The team also used data from the MUSE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope to track warmer gas -- which is being launched out of the black hole in the form of jets.

"The unique aspect here is a very detailed coupled analysis of the source using data from ALMA and MUSE," Tremblay explained. "The two facilities make for an incredibly powerful combination."

Together these two sets of data form a complete picture of the process; cold gas falls towards the black hole, igniting the black hole and causing it to launch fast-moving jets of incandescent plasma into the void. These jets then spout from the black hole in a spectacular galactic fountain. With no hope of escaping the galaxy's gravitational clutches, the plasma cools off, slows down, and eventually rains back down on the black hole, where the cycle begins anew.

This unprecedented observation could shed light on the life cycle of galaxies. The team speculates that this process may be not only common, but also essential to understanding galaxy formation. While the inflow and outflow of cold molecular gas have both previously been detected, this is the first time both have been detected within one system, and hence the first evidence that the two make up part of the same vast process.


Abell 2597 is found in the constellation Aquarius, and is named for its inclusion in the Abell catalogue of rich clusters of galaxies. The catalogue also includes such clusters as the Fornax cluster, the Hercules cluster, and Pandora's cluster.

More information

This research was presented in a paper entitled "A Galaxy-Scale Fountain of Cold Molecular Gas Pumped by a Black Hole", which appeared in The Astrophysical Journal.

The team was composed of G. R. Tremblay (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, USA; Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Yale University, New Haven, USA), F. Combes (LERMA, Observatoire de Paris, Sorbonne University, Paris, France), J. B. R. Oonk (ASTRON, Dwingeloo, the Netherlands; Leiden Observatory, the Netherlands), H. R. Russell (Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge University, UK), M. A. McDonald (Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA), M. Gaspari (Department of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University, USA), B. Husemann (Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Heidelberg, Germany), P. E. J. Nulsen (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, USA; ICRAR, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia), B. R. McNamara (Physics & Astronomy Department, Waterloo University, Canada), S. L. Hamer (CRAL, Observatoire de Lyon, Université Lyon, France), C. P. O'Dea (Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada; School of Physics & Astronomy, Rochester Institute of Technology, USA), S. A. Baum (School of Physics & Astronomy, Rochester Institute of Technology, USA; Faculty of Science, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada), T. A. Davis (School of Physics & Astronomy, Cardiff University, UK), M. Donahue (Physics and Astronomy Department, Michigan State University, East Lansing, USA), G. M. Voit (Physics and Astronomy Department, Michigan State University, East Lansing, USA), A. C. Edge (Department of Physics, Durham University, UK), E. L. Blanton (Astronomy Department and Institute for Astrophysical Research, Boston University, USA), M. N. Bremer (H. W. Wills Physics Laboratory, University of Bristol, UK), E. Bulbul (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, USA), T. E. Clarke (Naval Research Laboratory Remote Sensing Division, Washington, DC, USA), L. P. David (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, USA), L. O. V. Edwards (Physics Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, USA), D. Eggerman (Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Yale University, New Haven, USA), A. C. Fabian (Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge University, UK), W. Forman (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, USA), C. Jones (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, USA), N. Kerman (Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Yale University, New Haven, USA), R. P. Kraft (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, USA), Y. Li (Center for Computational Astrophysics, Flatiron Institute, New York, USA; Department of Astronomy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA), M. Powell (Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Yale University, New Haven, USA), S. W. Randall (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, USA), P. Salomé (LERMA, Observatoire de Paris, Sorbonne University, Paris, France), A. Simionescu (Institute of Space and Astronautical Science [ISAS], Kanagawa, Japan), Y. Su (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, USA), M. Sun (Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Alabama in Huntsville, USA), C. M. Urry (Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Yale University, New Haven, USA), A. N. Vantyghem (Physics & Astronomy Department, Waterloo University, Canada), B. J. Wilkes (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, USA) and J. A. ZuHone (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, USA).

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world's most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It has 16 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile and with Australia as a Strategic Partner. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope and its world-leading Very Large Telescope Interferometer as well as two survey telescopes, VISTA working in the infrared and the visible-light VLT Survey Telescope. ESO is also a major partner in two facilities on Chajnantor, APEX and ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will become "the world's biggest eye on the sky".



Grant Tremblay
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Cambridge, USA
Tel: +1 207 504 4862

Francoise Combes
LERMA, Paris Observatory
Paris, France

Calum Turner
ESO Public Information Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6670

Calum Turner | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Heat flow through single molecules detected
19.07.2019 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University

nachricht Better thermal conductivity by adjusting the arrangement of atoms
19.07.2019 | Universität Basel

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Better thermal conductivity by adjusting the arrangement of atoms

Adjusting the thermal conductivity of materials is one of the challenges nanoscience is currently facing. Together with colleagues from the Netherlands and Spain, researchers from the University of Basel have shown that the atomic vibrations that determine heat generation in nanowires can be controlled through the arrangement of atoms alone. The scientists will publish the results shortly in the journal Nano Letters.

In the electronics and computer industry, components are becoming ever smaller and more powerful. However, there are problems with the heat generation. It is...

Im Focus: First-ever visualizations of electrical gating effects on electronic structure

Scientists have visualised the electronic structure in a microelectronic device for the first time, opening up opportunities for finely-tuned high performance electronic devices.

Physicists from the University of Warwick and the University of Washington have developed a technique to measure the energy and momentum of electrons in...

Im Focus: Megakaryocytes act as „bouncers“ restraining cell migration in the bone marrow

Scientists at the University Würzburg and University Hospital of Würzburg found that megakaryocytes act as “bouncers” and thus modulate bone marrow niche properties and cell migration dynamics. The study was published in July in the Journal “Haematologica”.

Hematopoiesis is the process of forming blood cells, which occurs predominantly in the bone marrow. The bone marrow produces all types of blood cells: red...

Im Focus: Artificial neural network resolves puzzles from condensed matter physics: Which is the perfect quantum theory?

For some phenomena in quantum many-body physics several competing theories exist. But which of them describes a quantum phenomenon best? A team of researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Harvard University in the United States has now successfully deployed artificial neural networks for image analysis of quantum systems.

Is that a dog or a cat? Such a classification is a prime example of machine learning: artificial neural networks can be trained to analyze images by looking...

Im Focus: Extremely hard yet metallically conductive: Bayreuth researchers develop novel material with high-tech prospects

An international research group led by scientists from the University of Bayreuth has produced a previously unknown material: Rhenium nitride pernitride. Thanks to combining properties that were previously considered incompatible, it looks set to become highly attractive for technological applications. Indeed, it is a super-hard metallic conductor that can withstand extremely high pressures like a diamond. A process now developed in Bayreuth opens up the possibility of producing rhenium nitride pernitride and other technologically interesting materials in sufficiently large quantity for their properties characterisation. The new findings are presented in "Nature Communications".

The possibility of finding a compound that was metallically conductive, super-hard, and ultra-incompressible was long considered unlikely in science. It was...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on UV LED Technologies & Applications – ICULTA 2020 | Call for Abstracts

24.06.2019 | Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

Latest News

Heat flow through single molecules detected

19.07.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Heat transport through single molecules

19.07.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Welcome Committee for Comets

19.07.2019 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>